“I don’t remember a lot of them,” my friend Jay told me when I asked him to tell me a recent dream. “Most of them I’m happy to forget. They’re very strange and often scary.”
Jay is a devoted practitioner of mindfulness in his waking life: he is a practiced yogi, a conscious writer, and consistent meditator. He extends awareness into his daily life, paying close attention to the details of his experience: he hears the music, sees the trees, feels his workouts as moving meditations. But the minute his head hits the pillow, the awareness stops.
Not remembering or paying attention to dreams is not at all uncommon or surprising. After all, ours is not a culture that views dreamlife as valuable.
But in the context of history, it is only recently dreams have become inconsequential and unimportant. In most cultures throughout time, dreams have overwhelmingly been regarded as mystical, mysterious, and containing great power. In shamanic cultures, for example, dreams were vital to both the individual dreamer and the community, as food sources could be divined in dreams. The Greeks built temples and asked the gods to gift them with a dream
to address their psychological torment, or to heal their physical ills.
Many religions and cultures (Native Americans, Hindus, Sufis, Buddhist, and Tibetans perhaps most extensively of all) contain teachings related t0 Dreamyoga, a practice which seeks to extend our consciousness into the dreaming and sleep state, with the ultimate goal of waking up from the Big Dream, the illusion that is waking life. Tibetan traditions say awareness in the dream/sleep state prepares us for awareness in the sleep immediately following death, or the bardo.
Lucid dreaming – when you’re dreaming and you know you’re dreaming – forms a foundational practice of Dreamyoga. Chances are you’ve experienced a
lucid dream spontaneously at some point in your life. If you have, you know that ‘waking up’ in the dream liberated you. You were free to choose your next
action unencumbered by the laws of physics. In fact, no limits exist when you are dreaming.
You can fly or have sex (which is the first things most people do when they realize they are dreaming). You can change into various forms, travel to boundaries of experience, travel beyond them, create, mend relationships,receive teachings, inspirations for your music, your writing. Transforming, dissolving boundaries, and facing monsters all have symbolic relevance that translates to our physical lives.
So you can make anything you want happen in a lucid dream – go ahead, it’s fun. But ultimately, you’ll want to not interfere with the dream story and simply allow it to proceed as it will. It’s trying to show you something. Simply allow your dream ego (“you” in the dream) to pay attention.
world is the real world. ~Seneca Indian Healer
As you know from the psychotic nature of your own dreams, not all of them are going to seem rich with meaning. Carl Jung and other traditions agree
that dream images arise from different levels of psyche – indeed some just seem like regurgitated chaos from the day. Others arise from a person’s personal
life experiences and past.
But then there are those that come from a very deep level of psyche which we all share – Jung called it the collective unconscious. Dreams which
originate here allow us to receive teachings and gain vital knowledge not available to us in our waking lives.
You will be happy to learn that if you are practicing awareness in your waking life like my friend Jay, you are already practicing dream yoga.
Anything you do in your daily life to enhance consciousness will assist your yogic efforts in your dreams. Here are some dream techniques you can practice:
Even if you haven’t remembered a dream in years, dream memory can improve quite steadily with minimal effort.
Set an intention: As with other yoga practices, this creates a powerful focus. Simply tell yourself before going to bed that you are going to remember your dreams.
Don’t move: when you wake from a dream, try not to jump out of bed right away, or even change your bodily position; linger a few moments and take note of any images you recall; perhaps you feel a lingering emotion, or see a flash of color. It’s all good.
Write it down: advice you’ve probably heard before…keep a small notepad or journal at your bedside and record any memory you have before you leave the bed or you will lose it before you reach the bathroom. You may recall more of your dream randomly later in the day…pay attention to what triggered the memory and add in this new information.
*In your entry, consider any or all of the following regarding your dream or dreams:
(indoor, outdoors, etc.)
(relatives, friends, strangers, celebrities)
- Nature of
interactions (friendly, hostile, sexual, etc.)
(running, jumping, flying)
(fear, happiness, confusion)
of the images relevant to your current life concerns
Record your dream in the present tense: “I am walking in a deep, dark canyon…” vs. “I was walking…”. This assists recall and may help you remember more details.
Give it a title: this may cut to the heart of your dream’s theme quickly and succinctly in a surprising way.
Everything from musical masterpieces to scientific discoveries have been credited to dreams. Einstein said it was dreams which allowed him to travel to the boundaries of science and return with new theories which transformed our thinking and our world. Breaking out of boundaries IS what allows us to collectively transform and evolve. I’d say that’s pretty important to the human race, so I invite you to wake up to your dreams for the benefit of
all. Dream strong.